Prop 64: small businesses will go up in smoke

Mathew Park

The legalization of marijuana has been a hot topic of debate in recent years, and it will come into the spotlight during election season this year in the form of Proposition 64.  While marijuana being legalized sounds great in theory, it may be a good idea to pump the brakes and take a look at the overall impact that this proposition has on the marijuana industry. Proposition 64 may not be the best approachto marijuana legalization since it has the potential to hurt small businesses the most while driving up the cost of the product.

The ballot reads, “legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older.  Imposes state taxes on sales and cultivation. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation.” The bill describes its fiscal impact as “additional tax revenues ranging from high hundreds of millions of dollars to over $1 billion annually, mostly dedicated to specific purposes. Reduced criminal justice costs of tens of millions of dollars annually.”

While the use of marijuana is technically legal for medicinal purposes, there has yet to be a law that will legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the state of California.  One of the potential upsides to legalizing marijuana is the taxation it will place on the sale and cultivation of the product. However, the financial effects of the taxation could potentially provide a boost to the economy.  The ballot does notspecify where the money will be allocated to,  and as a result, the potential taxation on the product has led to a split in the community.

Since the passing of Proposition 215 in 1996, which made the possession and usage of marijuana legal for medical purposes, local dispensaries have flourished.  However, as both seniors Joshua Thomas and Tyquion Ballard expressed, some people have concerns with the potential impact that Proposition 64 could have on small cannabis-selling businesses.

“I’m not opposed to the legalization of weed, but more the prop itself,” said Thomas.  “By taxing weed, I could see it helping out our economy in a big way in terms of revenue. But at what cost?  This could potentially hurt a lot of small dispensaries and businesses.”

For Ballard, the propositon would alsoadversely limit access. “I personally don’t think it needs to be legalized, because while the quantity might go up, the quality will go down,” said Ballard. “I’m worried that smaller businesses will start to go out of business with marijuana being sold in liquor stores as opposed to dispensaries.”

The concern for dispensaries seems to be a valid one since there would be basically no restrictions on a business who wishes to sell marijuana under this new bill. If a store wishes to sell weed, there would be little incentive for the general public to go to a small business that prioritizes quality over quantity.

“There’s definitely a better way of legalizing marijuana,” said Ballard.  “I feel like they can just kick out the petty crimes for marijuana and keep things the way they are by going through dispensaries. The main thing I’m concerned with is the quality of the product going down, and the price going higher than it should. I am personally more concerned about the quality than the quantity being produced.”

Thomas also agreed that there is an upside to this propostion in terms of the overall financial impact, but expressed some hesitancy. “Yeah, it’ll be cool for anyone over 21 to be able to just buy weed whenever they want,” explained Thomas.  “Convenience will be a huge plus for the community, as well as the boost to our economy through taxes. But at the same time, I’m personally fine with the way it is now and would hate to see these small businesses shut down because of this.”

Even to those who have no interest in marijuana, Proposition 64 is worth taking a look at to see who it really would be hurting or helping.